When I've read the Bible through, you know how it is, you get involved in a story. I love the stories of the Bible. I'll be reading along and there may be a little something that I don't just quite understand but the story is continuing and I want to continue with the story to find out what's going on. And that little passage that I just don't quite get is forgotten. And I'll come upon it later and say, "I don't remember ever reading that before." Well, this time when I'm reading the Bible I started to do something different. I started to keep a journal of things I don't understand. You'd be surprised how quickly that journal is filling up. I'll write down something I don't understand or I don't really remember ever reading before and then I'll come upon the answer to the question. Maybe three of chapters later, "Oh, that's what this was talking about." And I'll go back and, you know I'll leave a couple lines so I can write down the answer when I find it.
Well, this happened this week. I was reading in the book of Matthew, you know, you read Matthew all the time. But I came across something that intrigued me. Matthew 12, I know I've read it before, but I can't honestly say that I've really given it a lot of thought. Matthew 12:38-40. Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from You."
And then Jesus' answer covers the next several verses, and it's rather interesting. Matthew 12:39,40. He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
The next verse really hits hard. Matthew 12:41. "The men of Nineveh will stand at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now One greater than Jonah is here." The people of Nineveh... You remember Nineveh, a place that didn't know right from wrong. And Jonah shows up. Jonah does not work a miracle in Nineveh, he simply tells them God's message and they accepted it, they believed it. Wow! The people of Nineveh will stand in judgement of Jewish Pharisees? What a blow to the old ego! And they repented without Jonah performing any signs! They were mere Pagans and had twice as much faith as the very people of God! As if that was not enough, Jesus continues in the next verse. And this is really the verse I'm aiming at.
Matthew 12:42. "The Queen of the South shall rise at the judgment with this generation, and condemn it: for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now One greater than Solomon is here."
The Queen of the South. Now I had to think a bit. "Who is the Queen of the South?" I think I knew who that was, but I had to do a little looking. This question leads us to the book of 1 Kings, way back in the Old Testament.
The book of 1 Kings is a fascinating book, and here's an interesting chapter. 1 Kings 10, starting with verse 1. Here we have the story of the Queen of Sheba visiting Jerusalem. 1 Kings 10:1. When the Queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.
We know that the Queen of Sheba was from the south but it is debated as to where in the south. Some hold that she was from Ethiopia but most evidence seems to suggest she was from the Arab world, specifically Yemen. Either way, she had heard news of Solomon. How did she hear news from such a distant land? Jerusalem had been placed by God on the crossroads of the world. Jerusalem was the crossroads of the major trade routes of the Middle East. Anybody that came and went from anywhere came through Jerusalem, crossroads that are still fought over today, by the way. This location would make the spread of the Word of God easy because so many came and went. God was supposed to be magnified there and everybody that came through was supposed to learn about God and take it back to their own pagan land, and people would learn all over the world about Who the true God was. But God's people became smug: "We are the chosen ones." They forgot that they were chosen to share the Word. They came to believe that they were chosen because of some inherent value within themselves and they hoarded the Word of God. Something we have to be careful of ourselves!
Remember, Jonah was chosen to give a message. Jonah was no great guy. He ran from God. We are chosen to give a message. His Word is void if His Word is hoarded. Tomorrow I have a task to do, and I want you to pray for me. I'm going to be writing a lesson for children on how to share Jesus with people they meet. I want you to really pray for that. And I want children to learn from that lesson how to spread the gospel, but don't let's let the children get ahead of us, okay? Let's be shining examples of spreading God's Word than hoarding God's Word.
Do you know why the Queen of Sheba heard about Solomon's fame and Solomon's God? It was not just because of the passing camels from the trade routes. Solomon prayed for this very thing to happen. Hold your finger here and turn back a couple of chapters to chapter 8. Solomon has just completed the temple, the temple that was designed by God. This text is found in the heart of Solomon's prayer of dedication for the new temple.
1 Kings 8:41-43. This is a prayer. "As for the foreigner who does not belong to Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your name--for men will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm--when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, Your dwelling place and do whatever the foreigner asks of You so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears Your name."
Turn back to chapter 10. He prayed that strangers would come, and from what they heard, from what they witnessed, they would come to know the true God and spread it around the world. That was his prayer. Are you praying that strangers will find their way into god's house? You don't have to just pray for people you know. You can pray for God to send strangers to His house. And He will answer your prayers just as He did when He answered Solomon's prayer. It says in this verse that the Queen of Sheba asked Solomon some hard questions to test him. She had heard of his vast wisdom. Wisdom he had requested from God for ruling the kingdom justly. I imagine she asked questions about ruling her own kingdom, seeking wisdom. So, I imagine that some of the questions the Queen of Sheba asked Solomon were questions that she had about problems back in her own region. "How do I handle something like this..." "How would you do that, Solomon?" I'd love to have heard that conversation. Look at 1 Kings 10:2.
Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan--with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones,-- she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.
One of the evidences that she came from Arabia is found in Ezekiel 27 where it mentions spices, gold, and precious stones coming from the land of Sheba in Arabia. It's very similar there. That's one of the reasons I believe she came from there instead of Ethiopia.
1 Kings 10:3. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. Do you know the Bible that well? I don't. People ask me questions that sometimes I say, "I've got to go and look that up." But, Solomon was able to just answer all of her questions. And, Solomon's answers were true and intelligent because he was filled with the Holy Spirit, who leads us as our verse said this morning, "In all truth." (John 16:12, 13)
His answers were such that her mind was drawn away from Solomon and too that answering Spirit, the true source of wisdom. That is how our speech should be. Not one of us should be arrogant in how smart we are, what our I.Q. is, and what we know. All of this is given by God. All our wisdom, everything that we have, should be used to draw people to our God. Solomon knew that his wisdom was not his own. He was only special because God had chosen him to be special.
My daughter's seventh birthday was yesterday. By the way, I don' tell about my kids without their permission. I did ask her. Last week, little gifts and cards started arriving by mail from relatives and friends. They were just stacking up there. She couldn't open them until yesterday. I told her that she must be special for people to remember her birthday. She replied, "I am special!" A little worried that I might need to deal with an ego problem, I replied, "What makes you think that you are so special?" Her answer was simple and deeply theological. She said, "Because I'm your kid!" Besides bursting with fatherly pride, I immediately saw the spiritual implication in that statement. I am special only because of who my Father is. People should notice us only long enough to be drawn to our Heavenly Father, because we're His kids.
What was the Queen's reaction to her experience in the presence of God's people? 1 Kings 10:4-5. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.
She was overwhelmed by all that she experienced. When people worship here, are they overwhelmed by their experience? She was overwhelmed even by the robes that Solomon's servants were wearing. We are also servants of the King, aren't we. Are we wearing the robes that He has provided for us? You know what I am talking about. The robes we must wear for the wedding feast! The robes of our Kings righteousness. If we are, people will be more impressed than if you were wearing the most expensive finery made by man. Christ's robe is worth far than man can make because it cost Him everything!
She was also impressed with the Temple and the services. Some may feel that the way God's House looks is not very important. But remember, God designed this temple Himself! These were His drawings. He was the architect of Solomon's temple. There was nothing shabby about it. This was one of the things that brought the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem, to see God's House that she had heard about. How we care for the House of God says a lot about how we care for God. They taught me in Seminary that the first thing that impresses a visitor when they walk in the door of your church is how they are greeted. The second thing that impresses them is how clean are the rest rooms! If we care for the hidden away parts of God's House, then we must care for Him.
She was so impressed by the dignity and sincerity of the services in the temple that she praised God. A God she didn't know! Our worship should be dignified and sincere as well. This does not mean without life. I offer you a challenge. When we come together in the House of God to worship Him, visualize Jesus sitting beside you in the pew. Visualize the Heavenly Father on the platform. Would you still mumble into the folds of your hymnal? Would you still be thinking about the stress of the past week? I have the feeling that our worship might be a little different. I have good news! God is here! This house is filled with His angels. We are in the company of royalty! If our worship reflects this belief, then total strangers will praise a God that they have never met! Just like the Queen of Sheba.
Look at the next verse. 1 Kings 10:6-7 She said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw them with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth, you have far exceeded the report I heard."
Isn't that the way it always is? We can hear of Jesus all of our lives. We can hear in Sabbath School, or maybe in Sunday School. We can hear in church. We can hear it in prayer meeting. We can hear in school. We can hear from our parents. We can hear from our friends. But not until we have a personal encounter with Him do we truly understand. We can believe, but belief is different than understanding. The Queen of Sheba believed enough to make the trip to see for herself. When she saw for herself, she had understanding, and praised God. When you have understanding, words can't seem to explain the experience, yet we must tell someone. We must share our experience because it is too great to keep for ourselves; this is how the gospel is to be spread.
1 Kings 10:8. "How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!"
Happy servants. That sounds like a contradiction. Happy servants. Aren't servants supposed to look oppressed? Have you ever met a Christian that looked oppressed? I have. "Woe is me. The burden of the Lord is so great." Is that the way we're supposed to be? I don't think so. Aren't servants supposed to feel dreary? Oh, I've seen dreary "Christians." Aren't servants supposed to be unhappy with their lot in life? That's the world's view of a servant. Yet, the Queen of Sheba recognizes that to be in the presence of such wisdom can only lead to happiness!
One greater than Solomon is here! We are in the presence of wisdom far greater than his. Are you happy to be His servant? What greater honor could their be than to be the servant of God!
After all, wasn't Jesus the ultimate Servant? He taught us how to be a servant. He took of His outer garments. He washed the dirty feet of people He had created. That's a servant. And then He died for the people that He had created and who had rejected Him. We should be happy to be His servants.
The queen recognized something more than happiness. Look at the next verse. 1 Kings 10:9. "Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness."
In her praise of God we find some interesting, things that she discovered. First off, God delights in his people. Did you catch that? He delights in His people. He is personable. He is not distant and aloof like all the other gods were. Secondly, God is in control of kingdoms. He places kings on their thrones. She recognized that Solomon was only there because God placed him there. Thirdly, God's love is eternal, she said. She already knew this. And He loves Justice and Mercy. Both of those. She learned a lot more about God in a short time than many learn in a life time! Many people go to their graves not understanding the justice and the mercy of God.
How do we know about her sincerity? Because she acted upon her beliefs. You know when someone has accepted the gift of Jesus because they do not remain the same. Some of them can say, "I've accepted Jesus. It's the same old stuff." Now wait a minute. Jesus must not have much power. They are moved to change. The gift of Jesus is free. But the gift changes the heart. They want Jesus to fill their lives. They have a desire to be rid of all that will prevent Him from dwelling within. When we accept Jesus, we will not ignore sin, but will begin to detest it. Notice I said, "To begin to detest it." It's a process. We don't become, "Now I hate all sin." I wish. But it's a process as He moves into our lives cleaning out different areas of our lives. We desire more and more to be rid of sin. We will not ignore it.
Last week, we were driving with my family to Georgia Cumberland Academy for graduation. We had not gone very far, in fact we were still right out here on Lee Highway. And we passed by a business that had a yard in front of it. And when we passed by I said to my wife, "Susan, did you see that?" "No, see what?" "I don't believe I just saw that. "What did you see?" "I think that I saw a dead dog." "That's not unusual on this road." I said, "What's unusual is this was a huge dead dog, and it was lying in the yard in front of that business and somebody had mowed around it." Have you ever seen that? Somebody had been out there with a lawnmower and had mowed around the dead dog, up between its legs and around. I could tell by the taller grass right next to the dog. But everything else was nicely mowed. I still did not believe it so on our way home later that night I looked in that yard again. It was dark but I could still see a lump on the ground surrounded by taller grass. The next day I drove by again: huge dead dog, tall grass right next to it, everything else manicured. I drove by the next day and the dog was still there. I believe the dog had gotten bigger somehow but it was still there. I drove by again the next day and people were going about their business just a few feet from the rotting corpse of that dog. The next day I saw other dogs playing in the yard, ignoring the dead beast a few feet away. Vultures were even ignoring it! Finally, I drove by and saw only a patch of bare earth. The thing had been buried. That's one job I'm glad did not fall to me!
That is what sin is like. The longer it is ignored, the longer it lingers, the harder it is to deal with. When we invite Jesus into our lives, we cannot ignore the stench of sin. Let Him remove it. With Jesus in our lives, change will happen. It may not happen as fast as we could wish but the closer we get to Him, the less we desire dead dogs stinking up our lives. We cannot experience Him and remain the same!
The Queen of Sheba did not remain the same. Look at 1 Kings 10:10. And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices and precious stone. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the Queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
The queen was so moved by her experience she desired to give. Even though what she saw was far grander than what she had, she was not ashamed to give. She had to respond in some way.
1 Kings 10:13. King Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country. I wish I knew the rest of the story; what happened in her own country.
In the Orient it is a custom not only to desire gifts but to ask for them. If you see something you like, the custom is to ask for it. Solomon not only received but also gave. The queen of Sheba returned with more than she had contributed, for in addition to her material gifts she returned home with that which is of infinite worth----a knowledge of the true God. When we give to God, our own wealth increases beyond measure! God accepts and honors our gifts and then gives us even more in return.
The Pharisees, back in the original text, were looking for Jesus to give them a sign but they did not recognize that the man standing before them was far greater than Solomon! Do you need a sign or do you recognize Whom you are here to worship today! It is still an accepted custom to ask Him for all that you desire. Oh, He has already given to you from His bounty, but it is acceptable to ask for more. Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. Did he get it? He did! Do you want grace? Ask for twice as much as you think you'll get. Ask for a double portion. Do you want Salvation? Do you want wisdom? Do you want faith? Do you want the Spirit to fill your life? Ask for a double portion of the Spirit. Don't be afraid to ask for it! He is a wise, loving, generous King, and Father. He may even give you a double portion! I want to follow Someone like that all the way.
Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol. 2
Hymn of Praise: #538, Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah Scripture: John 16, 12,13 Hymn of Response: #516, All the Way
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last updated 6/7/2003 by Bob Beckett.